Friday, 31 July 2015

Planting acorns - Luna's Reading Tree

Current progress
Back in April, to coincide with the start of  a new academic year here in Japan, we endeavoured on yet another project: Luna's Reading Tree. As our students develop their reading skills, we wanted a reminder within the classroom of their progress as means of evaluation for both student and teacher. Conveniently, it also adds to the decor!

As part of our reading curriculum, the Oxford Story Tree series has been a staple to many of our young learners as their first steps to reading in English and beyond. Having only become acquainted with Kipper and the gang relatively recently, I've thoroughly enjoyed their grand, and at times bizarre, adventures alongside my students.

The first step
Part of the reason this series has been such a hit with Luna is the language progression, each story builds on the vocabulary from the previous titles to allow students to expand their vocabulary without getting heavily bogged down with too many new words. Each series also comes with an audio CD, to listen in class or at home, and a workbook focusing on the key words from the story. Both bring a great wealth of additional materials/content for children to internalize the language.

The entire series spans 7 levels, with each level represented by a different colour, while at Luna we use the first four levels: red blue, green and orange. We believe this provides enough of a platform for our students to begin discovering their own titles and genres to explore.

The secret room looking lonely
Luna's Reading Tree represents all 28 titles, in the forms of leaves, from the 4 series, differentiated by the different colours. Each time you complete the story along with the workbook, you add a customised acorn to the relevant "leaf" to show off your accomplishments. Our goal is to have a luscious tree budding with vibrant energy, although our initial plan may not come to complete fruition as the Oxford Story Tree series are no longer available to order in Japan.

Never fear though as we still have some tricks up our sleeves and an opportunity to discover other fascinating stories to spark our students' imaginations.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Rainy season heat

 A long rainy season has from early June has finally ended, but what is worse is the scorching sunny days after that. Most days this week were boiling, over 30 degrees Celsius . It is perfect weather for swimming in the pool in the P.E class. The heat is not so bad at night or during classes at school because we have fans to keep us fresh and cool.

 However, after school or at the weekend, I usually have badminton club, where we use shuttles which are very light and easily blown by the wind, so we close the doors and all the windows. This makes the gymnasium horribly hot and humid. I changed 4 T-shirts in about 4 hours and drank about 3.5 liters of water!

 I want to hang out at the beach with cute girls instead of playing badminton with big sweaty guys!

Posted by Takuro

Friday, 17 July 2015

After reading - A letter from an orang-outang

When I met you for the first time in Borneo,I thought you were so kind. You moved me from the small cage to the big one. So I was relieved for a while. Then I thought I would go home in jungle again.

But you "a sailor " were not totally good man.You put me in a small cage again and moved to a ship.I stayed for two months. That was a terrible journey. I felt seasickness everyday and I didn`t like the food you gave .In addition I hated the whip.

In Paris, the situation was almost same. I eally wanted to go home.
The trees in the jungle was my favorite place. In the Rue Morgue I saw the lightning-rod, I thought I could be on treetops.But it was different. I watched women. It was a badly stressful incident.

Fortunately I stay in the Zoo in Paris now. This is the quiet life for me. I hear you get lots of money instead of selling me. I never forgive you.

Posted for Hiroko

Thursday, 16 July 2015

After reading - An unusual story involving an animal

Every Japanese knows Hachi,a akita dog. Hachi was born Akita prefecture in 1923. When he was 1year old, he came to Tokyo.

Mr.Eisaburo Ueno who was a professor of Tokyo University, Department of Agriculture by train. Mr.Ueno wanted to keep a Akita dog although he had had 2dogs.

Everyday when Mr.Ueno went to University, Hachi saw him to the door or to the Shibuya Station. And when Mr.Ueno came back home, Hachi went to Shibuya Station to meet him.

But, after a year, Mr.Ueno passed away by a stroke of apoplexy after a meeting of the University. Hachi didn't have anything for 3days after his death.

On the day of Mr.Ueno's funeral, Hachi went to Shibuya Station to meet Mr.Ueno.
Later, Mr.Ueno's relatives tried to keep Hachi, but it didn't work well.

After 2 years Mr.Kobayashi who was a gardener of Mr.Ueno's house kept Hacchi.He knew Hachi since Hachi was a baby. Mr. Kobayashi loved Hachi very much, but Hachi didn't stop to go to Shibuya Station to meet Mr. Ueno. On his way to the station, Hachi stopped at Mr.Ueno's house and looked inside of the house through the window.

One day Mr.Saito who was the president of Japanese dog preserve association knew about Hachi and wrote the news paper article about Hachi. Hachi became famous, people loved him.
10years later, after Mr.Ueno died, Hachi passed away.People atend his farewell ceremony and he was berried to the grave next to Mr.Ueno. Hachci's blonze statue was built at Shibuya station, and it is still there.

Posted for Yasumi

Thursday, 9 July 2015

After reading Hamlet - a conversation between king and prince

Hamlet went to another world where he saw his father.

Hamlet: Father, at last I have killed bad Claudius for your revenge. I decided I had to kill him when your ghost spoke to me about your true death. That was too cruel.

Father: You did a great job, fulfilled my soul. It;s great, my dear son. But I'm sad you died and came to this world too young. I hoped you lived strongly with Ophelia for long time as Denmark's noble king.

Hamlet: I'm sad about Ophelia, her father Polonius and brother Laertes. I'm sorry forgive me.

Father: You were good, noble and gentle prince. You are loved by all people. But it's not enough to live as a king of Denmark for long time.

Hamlet: Yes I was. I should be more cruel for bad people. Next time we will again be in that world and be a most royal and complete king to Denmark.

Father: I hope so. We will live strongly without revenge or not to receive revenge from others. We have to live for long time. It's important.

Posted for Mine

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Sensei, I don't have a story to tell...speaker's block & interrogative teaching

Andy Offutt Irwin telling a story, Atlanta Bot...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Casually mentioned I was trying to teach "The Narrative Tenses" last Thursday evening, via Swarm,  and then had a bit of a 'mare doing so. Friend, inspiration and twitter vivant +Michael @mickstout promptly asked me about resources to do so. Oh hell, called out!

Back story = used to employ a DELTA-qualified teacher whose every second sentence was about teaching the narra'ive tenses (Geordie), how good he was at it (them?) and that we should all d'off caps & bend a knee to the genius before us. But seeing as we have never had that many students in the rarefied reaches of advanced do need a bit for YLE Movers but you can generally get by without having to display any grasp of the past perfect simple/past perfect continuous/ fact if you even tried, I think the speaking examiner would shake your hand!

This particular class week was missing the storytellers, instead only the 'answers on the next page already filled in' students had turned up. Any story telling they do attempt is in L1. My 'pardon?' usually gets a 'No, no' + dismissive hand wave. Been there? Can never introduce something stealthily or creatively because my thunder eternally stolen "that's on p45"...

Nuts & bolts of had + past participle etc all diligently underlined. But grasping the actual concept? Timelines, arrows, arm waving...Jim sensei needed to hit reset and start again.

So not only scratching my head all week about how to rescue the befuddled students from last week's grammatical cul de sac, needed to actually impress a colleague as well - or at least try to reply.

My students share the same language, and are not natural story tellers nor inquisitors. Imagine the opposite of Irish or Italian, maybe? Any contribution usually delivered as a set piece, accepted universally & scarcely a comment or question there be afterwards.

As usual, simplest is best, and decided after rummaging my collection of supplementary materials that nothing was really going to present itself. I needed to detox the class from the dreaded G terminology & translation mindset, and in some parlance flip the classroom. Keep books in bags, concentrate on imaginative brain, banish pencils, avoid turn-taking & prevent dominant personalities railroading others. Time too for me to be quite a lot more intrusive than I usually am (inviting fluency and letting 'errors' go).
A board game with out story telling limits

Solution. A narrative.

Dived into the back of our games cupboard & found Never Ending Stories (sorry, that awful song will start in your brains too!) - for age 6+ it says on the box. Ideal. Very simple. Totally random. Players plop cards onto a board in turn, and develop a story as suggested by the images on them (characters, objects, locations) in the order they have been played. Past tenses great. But the 'forgotten' past?

Start at the end of the story and add cards to try to get to the beginning, back-filling detail as you go. This is where the teacher needs to be very involved asking for connections, suggesting links, checking/requiring details eg Were they married before? What happened? How did they meet? and letting the whole group contribute - player whose turn it is selects 'best help' and adds the bits up. Importantly, before the next turn, teacher as narrator recaps - helping everyone keep up with developments and providing a model. Embellishment with current events etc as they occur to you are great, as students then get to see the rationale for the tenses you are using, without focusing on the tenses you are using per se - at least if the story is interesting! I challenge anyone to recount the same (and ever expanding) story the same way twice without leaving bits out; students need to see this is the beauty of storytelling not the mental linear blockage some see it as. Grammatical flexibility gets you over the hurdle and you can 'keep going' without having to go all the way back to the beginning of the timeline and get things 'in order' Students love pointing out the teacher's mistakes....ask them if you left something out...and 'rescue' yourself with a post script.
How our story unfolded - narrative to come

So, for me, interrupt like mad at the creative brainstorming phase, establish chronology and link bits together grammatically - then let that part of the story be told however it comes out. Once a turn is 'done'; gently re-tell it to check you got it right (include 'corrections' here?), and help the other students with a second listening before connecting all the other previous parts.

So there has to be a digital way to do this, for classes with wifi & tech savvy learners.Voicethread would be one way to collate a final version, I think, and could be done outside of class/before the next class. Sock Puppet, minus the time limit, another idea. Fotobabble only gives you 90 seconds - but ideal per pic?

In class, with confident students I think a Pecha Kucha type approach might work. You could also trawl ELTpics or any theme in Flickr - or go random and use flickr as a screensaver (hands free, adjust time images shown to suit skills).

Another randomiser = give a student a slip of paper with a ridiculous scenario on it and have them bluster their way out of it - kind of Liar's Game. (eg "You were seen climbing out of a nightclub window at 8am this morning wearing a superman suit")  Of course allow questions from the floor. Big class, have 2 or 3 students sit at the front and have them tell a story. Only one is true, room votes at end of story & Q/A on which one. NB They can all be false, but the winner = most convincing liar?!

Friday, 3 July 2015

My favourite place - Kamikochi

Matsumoto is a city in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Because this city is surrounded by mountains, in winter it doesn't snow much like Nigata and in summer it isn't so hot.

The most popular place for tourism is Matsumoto Castle. The castle was built in the 16th century, and a samurai called Ogasawara was governing the whole country of Shinano (The old name of Nagano). It is a famous castle which never had a fight. And also it is called "karasu jyo". It means crow castle and this is because it is black. In Hyogo, there's a another castle called white heron castle and it is because it's white.

There are many other places to visit. Kaichi elementary school is a place where you can see combinations of the Japanese and the Western styles. Japan used to do national isolation for 200 years during the Edo period. When a man called Perry from the U.S. came to Japan, it ended. And many Western things came into Japan. This building is one of an example.

English: Taisho-ike, Kamikochi, Matsumoto, Nag...
Taisho lake
My favorite place is Kamikochi. it's a scenic spot and it's being popular and popular. These days many people from cities comes to escape the summer. In Kamikochi, you can see lots of beautiful mountains of the Japanese Alps. If you climb to an altitude of about 1500 meters, you'll see a beautiful lake called Taisho lake.

Posted for Remi

E-mail to Elizabeth


I am writing this E-mail from Fotheringhay Castle.  You must be surprised to see my E-mail.  Tomorrow, I am going to die and meet my God.  You cannot imagine how I feel now, but my heart is peaceful and quiet.

Promise me.  Please take care of my son, James.  He becomes the King of Scotland tomorrow, but he is a young boy and doesn’t know how he should rule his country.  Please support him and never let him die by unnecessary fight.

Before God, I have to tell you the truth.  You may still believe I killed James’s father, but I didn’t.  I know nothing how Darnley died on that day.  I was not there when he died and don’t know who killed him.  I know I had a lot of enemies and someone wanted kill me, not Darnley.

You know, the King or Queen is always lonely.  I had a few good friends, but more than that there were a lot of enemies around me.  I could not believe the people from the bottom of my heart.

James will fall into the same situation with us.  I just hope he will find a good woman who will love him and support him all his life.

I did want to see my son, James before the end of my life.  Please pass my message to him, I really love him.

Yours sincerely,


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Karen finds a huge computer

I lost control of my space ship and it goes faster and faster. It's broken but I'm excited. I come to a strange planet, land safely, and find my crew is safe.
Purple planet with local inhabitant!

The purple planet has small mountains and water, and I am wearing a spacesuit. It's cold - zero degrees!

I decide to explore alone because I do not like my crew. I find a tunnel and a ladder. I don't like tunnels because they are dark, but I go down the ladder because I met an alien. It's small and pink with three arms and two legs, and it can fly.

I find a huge computer. My computer is good, so I push a button. The computer explodes and I am very shocked. The tunnel collapses and I am trapped.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Yu-chan`s final mission

Yu's cold green planet.
I lose control of my ship, and it goes faster and faster because of engine trouble. I don't feel good - I'm going to be sick.

I come to a strange planet, land safely, and find my crew is safe. It's big green planet. There are not any animals. I'm wearing a space suit. I'm cold. It's zero degrees outside.

I decide to explore alone - I am brave. I find a tunnel and a ladder. I like tunnels because they are dark, but I go up the ladder because I saw a flashlight. I'm excited.

I find a long corridor with four doors at the end. I want to open the gold door, but I go through the black door and enter a room with metal walls. A panel in the wall opens and I go through it. I find an elevator and want to go up, so I do, but the door closes behind me and I realise that I am trapped. I shout and shout, but nobody can hear me....